A Victim's Guide: Treatment for Mesothelioma
This five-part victim’s guide is designed for those who have been affected by toxic exposure to asbestos. Throughout the next five articles, you will learn about the symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses, as well as receive detailed information about the most serious and deadly of the group—a rare type of cancer called mesothelioma.
In part five, we’ll go over more detailed information about different types of treatment available to victims of mesothelioma – both conventional and alternative. The various factors that help determine what treatment options are right for each individual patient, which include the location and severity of the cancer as well as the patient’s overall health, are covered also.
Treatment for mesothelioma can have two functions – either curative or palliative. Curative treatment is intended to eradicate the cancer and put the patient in a state of remission. Palliative treatment is administered to provide relief from pain and other unpleasant effects of the disease but is not expected to produce remission; this type of care is reserved for terminal patients, such as those diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma. Regardless of which purpose treatment serves, the same modalities are used – often in some combination and sometimes simultaneously.
Conventional Treatment Methods
There are three conventional modalities used as treatment for mesothelioma: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Surgery can be performed either to remove a malignancy and any affected surrounding tissue or to reduce pressure and discomfort caused by effects of the disease. Chemotherapy uses one of several anti-cancer drugs to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells by attacking them directly. Radiation therapy employs high-energy radiation to combat malignant cells within the body by damaging their DNA.
Studies have shown that multimodality treatments, which include surgery followed by chemo or radiation therapy or both, are most effective in combating mesothelioma. Significant side effects are associated with chemotherapy and radiation, however, and not all patients are able to tolerate the strain of treatment in their weakened state.
Alternative Treatment Methods
Alternative treatment for mesothelioma may take two forms: homeopathic or all-natural methods not endorsed by the American medical community but purported to have had some success in a small portion of cases; and experimental methods that are currently being tested at the research level but have not received clearance by the Food and Drug Administration for use with the general public.
Some examples of homeopathic alternative treatments include the ingestion of certain herbs that are believed to have anti-cancerous properties, adherence to strict dietary regimens including vegetarianism and hydrogen peroxide therapy.
Patients can volunteer for mesothelioma clinical trials to gain access to new and emerging treatments that have not received FDA clearance but may hold hope for unparalleled efficacy. Certain eligibility requirements must be met, and space is often quite limited. Patients wishing to enroll in a clinical trial should not hesitate to consult their doctor about current opportunities for participation.
Factors Affecting Treatment Decisions
The type of treatment for mesothelioma recommended will depend first on characteristics of the cancer: where it is located, how far it has advanced and what kind of cell comprises it. There are also factors related to the patient, which can impact treatment decisions, including age, gender and general physical health.